James Cameron 3D masterclass Abu Dhabi

James Cameron, Carlos Saldanha : 3D Masterclass at Abu Dhabi Media Summit

It was a nice gesture by the organizers to invite Real Vision to the 3D masterclass featuring the legend himself, James Cameron. (cell phone pic: seated center).

The turnout for the masterclass was huge as expected, and filled the better part of the auditorium of the Emirates Palace hotel in AbuDhabi. No doubt, I was sure that the audience was there more to see and hear the man speak on 3D, than for actual “masterclass” type activities that comprise typical Stereo 3D workshops.

As it turned out, there was a completely interesting angle to this masterclass, that did not touch on mundane stuff like how shoot with a 3D rig, and the history of 3D etc, but more on other equally important aspects of 3D film making…. the Story.

Both James and Carlos spoke with a passion for stereo 3D, and some of the topics covered were:

  • The influence S3D films can have on people (James spoke about Avatar and how indigenous people worldwide identified with the movie)
  • Carlos spoke on the behind the scenes hard work that goes into todays animated 3D films (not necessarily only on the Stereo 3D aspects of it).
  • Both James and Carlos agreed that S3D by itself will not “make” a film. It’s the idea, the story, the acting and the Directing that makes a compelling S3D film.
  • James briefly described the “Simulcam” and shows clips from Avatar behind the scenes and how “performance capture” is so much more than just “motion capture” or Mo-cap as it’s known in the industry.
  • Carlos showed clips from the making of RIO, his soon to be released S3D animated film, and the audience appreciated the work that goes into the making of such animated movies.

A few clips from RIO and one from Avatar were shown in 3D, using Dolby 3D projection (Infitec) as each audience member was given a pair of 3d glasses on entering the venue.

Unfortunately, the pet gripe of most experienced stereographers was visible yet again regarding the projection setup. There was quite a few vertical pixel misalignment visible on the projection. Quality Control is really the need of the day in the whole Glass-to-Glass chain in production of stereoscopic 3D content.

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Questions to James Cameron on 3D:

Both James and Carlos did take questions briefly on 3D, but the answers were more philosophical and generic as was expected from the nature of the questions asked by the audience.

This also meant that I did not get a chance to ask some of the questions that I was scribbling with a stylus on an Ipad (app: Penultimate) during the course of the talks. A screen shot of which is above.

  • On the Simulcam: JC touched briefly on the “Simulcam” and how it took much experimentation and a couple of years to develop. I’d love to have engaged in a dialog with him, on how technology has moved in great leaps and at the same time come down in price to now allow indie film makers to start making “Hybrid films”. He mentioned motion builder, the software that let him preview in real-time and I can’t help but think about how the V-Cam and Lightwave along with other “performance capture” software can now put all that into a rack mount unit for Virtual Cinematography. An article exists on the RealVision knowledgebase that is always visited by filmmakers that google ‘make your own avatar movie’.
  • On Titanic 2D to 3D Conversion: JC is known as being vehemently against 2D to 3D conversions. Which is a good thing! and something that I’m quite vocal about. Yet despite that, there are rumors that Titanic is up for conversion. Granted that the CG scenes could be re-rendered in stereoscopic 3D given JC’s strict quality control guidelines, but in addition to that would there be new algorithms at work on the conversion? Would he be personally supervising? Who is the Stereo QC (Quality Control) team to oversee that the conversion is done well…in short how would James defend… his choice to convert Titanic to 3D?
  • Pandora’s Digital Assets: Would JC license the digital assets of the Pandora world for educational purposes? I can see forward thinking class teachers, using a realtime stereoscopic 3D rendering capable Game Engine (CryEngine?) and renting a Digital Cinema screen at the local multiplex for morning classroom projects featuring walkthroughs of the Pandora ecosystem and teaching topics from environment protection to socio-political awareness and more…

Overall it was a worth while drive from Dubai to AbuDhabi in the UAE to participate in the 3D masterclass. I’d love if  these questions made their way to James Cameron to answer sometime.